Before living in Italy I’m not sure that I had ever eaten radicchio, but I love it now as much as the Italians do and its slight bitterness is perfect for a more interesting winter salad as well as this risotto.
Radicchio is a variety of common chicory that is related to Belgian endive, puntarelle and escarole and grown mostly in Veneto. There are several varieties of radicchio with names of different towns in Veneto and the most common ones to be found in supermarkets are Rosso di Treviso, Radicchio di Chioggia and Radicchio di Verona. All of them have bold red colors but the prettiest one is undoubtedly the variegated radicchio from Castelfranco which is an autumn variety, but it doesn’t have quite the same crunch and bitterness as the others. Radicchio is a good source of vitamins and trace minerals, especially Vitamin K and copper.
This is one of those dishes where the disparate flavors come together so well that it soon becomes a winter staple. It's hard to explain why it's so good but it just is; it's creamy and crunchy with a slight bitterness that is really satisfying.
Ingredients for 2:
0.75 liter chicken stock
185 grams ( 6.5 oz) carnaroli rice
half a red onion chopped finely
2 radicchio, ideally 1 Chioggia (round) and 1 Treviso (oblong)
100 grams (4 oz) gorgonzola
about 10 shelled walnuts
half glass dry white wine
extra virgin Italian olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. A home made chicken stock is much better for this risotto than a simple vegetable brodo because this is a winter dish that can use a bit more body. Heat the stock to boiling.
2. Sweat the onion in oil or a mixture of oil and butter for a few minutes until soft and translucent but not colored.
When the onion is ready, add the rice and turn the heat up high. Stir continuously for a minute or two until all the rice is coated with the onion and butter mixture and fully warmed through.
Add half a glass of white wine and let the alcohol burn off for half a minute until the rice becomes a little dry again.
From this point until the rice is cooked will take around 18 minutes. Start by adding a full ladle of hot stock to the risotto and now you’ll need to stay by the stove and stir regularly until the rice is fully cooked. Add the stock to the risotto one ladle at a time whenever the rice starts to dry out but don’t drown the rice by adding too much at once.
5. At the same time as the rice is cooking, wash the radicchio, remove the tough outer leaves, chop it roughly and cook it in a separate pan for a few minutes with just oil and a little salt, then turn off the heat and keep it at one side to be added at the end.
6. Roughly chop the walnuts and break the gorgonzola into pieces.
7. After 15 minutes check the risotto for salt and start tasting the rice to determine when it’s full cooked. If you run out of stock keep some boiling water to hand to keep the process going because cold water will reduce the temperature and affect the timing. Add smaller quantities of stock at this point because you don’t want to be left with a soupy mess when the rice is fully cooked.
As soon as the rice is cooked turn the heat off, let it rest for a minute and then with a wooden spoon vigorously beat the gorgonzola pieces into the risotto.
9. Add the radicchio and walnuts and serve with some grated parmigiano reggiano if required.